Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:26 pm on 12th January 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme 6:26 pm, 12th January 2021

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Robbie Moore. First, I would like to talk about vaccines. I welcome what we set out yesterday in the vaccine delivery panel, and I congratulate the Secretary of State and the vaccines Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi, on all that they have done on that. I particularly welcome the dashboard. As a data geek, I have been refreshing it today during this debate and I have worked out that 165,844 more doses were added to it today. That is a rate of over 1 million a week, which is great, but it is not enough, as we know.

I have also had the opportunity to see how the vaccine roll-out is going in my constituency. On Friday, I went to the Loomer Road surgery in Chesterton and saw the incredibly slick operation there. They were injecting Pfizer that day; this week, they are out doing AstraZeneca in the care homes. The overall response on the vaccine programme has been excellent throughout Staffordshire, but we clearly have the capacity to deliver more vaccines than we are currently getting. That is the point I would like to make to the Minister: we need more supply. We need to up the manufacturing capabilities as soon as we can. I am looking forward to speaking to both AstraZeneca and the vaccines Minister tomorrow at the Science and Technology Committee, when I will be asking exactly that: how can we get the supply up more quickly?

In the Minister’s opening speech, he highlighted the great British scientists who have contributed to our fight against covid and the work of the Vaccine Taskforce. As a member of the Science and Technology Committee, I have been privileged to interview and take evidence from all these people throughout the pandemic. On Friday, we published our first report on the use of scientific advice by the Government; it was rather overshadowed by the disgraceful scenes in Washington. I would like to thank the Committee and the Clerks for that and to highlight the fact that the Government have always been serious about taking and following advice. There was an initial lack of transparency around SAGE, which has been rectified, and this needs to be continued for other areas. We need the same for other measures. We need more transparency about the other effects of the things we are taking, and data fragmentation must improve. Perhaps we could look at what Israel has been able to achieve on that in the last few weeks.

Finally, I would like to talk a bit about the human cost of the pandemic. Newcastle-under-Lyme borough has now sadly passed 250 deaths, and I have heard repeatedly from the Royal Stoke University Hospital about how much pressure it is under. The piece that has left the biggest mark on me in recent weeks was published on UnHerd by an anonymous junior doctor on 6 January. It brought home the awfulness of people’s suffering. I shall quote from it briefly:

“The most distressing part of their struggle is the air hunger. You can spot these patients easily, as they grasp the masks to their faces with both hands and gasp visibly for air.”

Anybody who doubts the seriousness of what we are going through or who doubts how hard our hospitals are having to work to manage the pandemic should read that piece. I thank the anonymous junior doctor for writing it, and I thank them for all that they and their colleagues are doing for all of us.